What Should You Eat to Improve Your Learning?
What should you eat?
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it helps kick-start us for an active day of learning. Next month is once again time for back to school and with that the need to start thinking about proper nutrition for optimal learning!
Research has shown that proper nutrition improves class attendance, behaviour, attitude and mood, better memory and alertness which allows for faster information processing. Healthy eating is linked to improved comprehension which leads to better test scores and therefore higher grades. What should you eat?
First Things First… Start Your Day Right
Many people, in this fast-paced life, sleep as late as they can then hop out of bed and race out the door without a proper breakfast. There is no way around it skipping breakfast will have an adverse impact on learning.
Gregory W. Phillips (1), conducted an 11-year study (2005), on the breakfast eating habits of college students to ascertain if eating breakfast changed their grade on Biology exams. The study found a significant difference in performance, with a higher percent of the participants, who had eaten breakfast passing the exam. The study found that 65 percent of the student study participants had eaten breakfast. The study also supported results of several other studies showing that people of college age show an increased incidence of skipping breakfast over younger individuals.
What Should You Eat for Breakfast?
Well like many things when it comes to health, wellness and fitness, that all depends on the individual. There is no one size fits all when it comes to nutrition. When determining what you require to fuel yourself for the day several things come into play; do you have health conditions, are there special dietary restrictions, and how about particular nutrition plans such as being a vegetarian, vegan, paleo, etc. ? Each of these will come with specific changes in what would be required.
Keep in mind, no matter what the circumstances; you need to fuel your body with all the appropriate macronutrients. That means including a complex carbohydrate, healthy fat and clean protein source in your breakfast.
Complex carbohydrates are an important source of the glucose which your brain needs in the morning for energy and focus. Without this necessary fuel source, you will have issues with remembering, concentrating and therefore learning. Some complex carbohydrates you could incorporate into your breakfast are steel cut oats, brown rice, yams with the skin or beans.
Consuming a clean protein source at breakfast is associated with helping to fuel your metabolism which helps you in burning more calories throughout the day. It is theorized that having protein in the morning releases ghrelin, a hunger hormone that increases your feelings of satiety and fullness. When you feel fuller, longer, you tend to make better dietary choices throughout the day. Examples of healthy protein breakfast choices include organic free range eggs, organic plain Greek yogurt, organic free range chicken sausage, quinoa or organic unsweetened nut or seed butter.
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are an extremely healthy fat choice that helps to target stubborn belly fat. There are several reasons to start your day with a healthy fat choice including; fat helps employ the use of Vitamins A, D, E and K, slows down the absorption of nutrients which makes you feel full longer. Saturated fats can be included in your meals but should only comprise 10 percent of you daily fat intake, contrary to popular belief it has an important part in health. Saturated fat strengthens bone and improves liver, lung, and brain health. Healthy fat is in sources such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil and even dark chocolate
It is important when considering what should you eat, to make healthy breakfast choices to help meet your daily requirements for nutrients. Trash the sugary, processed, simple carbohydrate breakfast options. Breakfast can be as simple as leftovers from dinner if you are in a hurry.
Planning ahead is always the best bet for setting yourself up for success! Set out everything you want to use in the morning before you go to bed or make a weeks’ worth of breakfasts on Sunday so you can grab and go. Quick and easy meals can include; chia pudding, a large frittata cut into daily portions, homemade muffins sweetened with only fruit and using alternative whole grains, homemade unsweetened steel cut oat squares or premade Mason jar oatmeal are just a few suggestions.
Let’s all work together to make school a success for everyone! Even in Canada, children go to school hungry. When children are hungry, it’s hard to learn. You can donate to societies such as Breakfast for Learning (http://www.breakfastforlearning.ca/how-to-help/) Find out how you can help in your community to ensure children have the nutrients they need to thrive in a world full of opportunity.
So, bottom line, what should you eat? Learn more about nutrition with our 24 hour online Principles of Nutrition course. This Sports Nutrition Course will teach 110 fundamental nutrition principles essential to achieving and maintaining optimum health, performance and longevity.
Cathie Glennon / BCRPA-SFL, Rehabilitation Specialist, Pharm Tech (Level 3)